|Leicester Tigers (3) 22|
|Tries: O’Connor 2, Smith Cons: J Ford 2 Pen: J Ford|
|Saracens (21) 27|
|Tries: Spencer, Lewington, Lozowski Cons: Spencer 3 Pens: Spencer 2|
Saracens hung on to beat Leicester in an absorbing Premiership game at Welford Road, despite having to play part of the second half with 13 men.
Tries from Ben Spencer, Alex Lewington and Alex Lozowski put Sarries 21-3 up.
Brendon O’Connor ran in for Tigers and Spencer landed a penalty before Ben Earl and Schalk Burger were sin-binned.
O’Connor and Matt Smith went over to reduce the deficit to two points, but a Sarries penalty ensured an eighth-straight league win this season.
The defending champions are still second in the table, level on points with leaders Exeter, but now unbeaten in 19 games in all competitions.
Leicester, looking to avoid a fifth successive loss in domestic league and cup competitions, had little to show after making a strong start, as Jonah Holmes – back after making his Wales debut – and Gareth Owen had tries ruled out by the Television Match Official.
Saracens dazzled in response, with Max Malins creating the pick of the first-half tries with a defence-defying mazy run and looping pass to send Lewington over.
Ben Spencer’s 80-metre dash for the game’s opening try after charging down a kick and Lozowski’s bustling effort on his return from England duty, however, were also fine examples of Sarries’ ruthless attacking ability.
Despite the margin and costly loss of hooker Tom Youngs to a knee injury before the break, Leicester stubbornly fought their way back into the contest.
O’Connor crashed over for Tigers’ first try to give them renewed impetus after the break, and their relentless pressure saw Earl and Burger yellow carded.
Leicester, who were down 24-10 with 14 minutes remaining, made the numerical advantage count with devastating effect as O’Connor bundled over a second before Smith crossed out wide.
Even with Spencer alleviating some of the pressure with his late penalty, Leicester pressed in search of a winning score until the end but ultimately ran out of time.
Leicester Tigers interim head coach Geordan Murphy told BBC Radio Leicester:
“I’m really disappointed to be quite honest. I thought we started the game well, we got over the tryline – I thought at least one of the tries should have been given, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
“Saracens are good enough to soccer three tries from their own half and we switched off for a 10-minute period in the first half and found ourselves 21-3 down.
“I thought our second half performance was much better, again we get over the tryline a couple of times in the second half and we’re not awarded tries and there’s another contentious one with the penalty try.
“It just feels like everything’s going against us at the minute, and credit to the lads. I thought they worked incredibly hard and they kept going to the death.”
Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall told BBC Radio London:
“For the first 15 minutes, Leicester were the more aggressive and physical team and we were on the back foot.
“But for the last 25 minutes of that first half, we played really well and scored three very good tries, solo efforts for the most part and maybe 21-3 didn’t really reflect how even that first half was.
“We gave away some pretty dumb penalties at the start of the second half and allowed them some easy field position and pressure to get their maul going.
“Down to 13 men, it was an incredible defensive effort with some outstanding individual performances. Brad Barritt as the captain was out of this world in terms of putting his body on the line.
“But, it was also a huge experience for some of the younger players to be part of a winning side in those circumstances.”
Leicester: Holmes; Thompstone, Owen, Eastmond, J Olowofela; J Ford, Harrison; Bateman, T Youngs (capt), Cole, Spencer, Kitchener, Williams, O’Connor, Kalamafoni.
Replacements: Kerr, Gigena, Cortes, Wells, Fitzgerald, White, Hardwick, Worth.
Saracens: Goode; Lozowski, Tompkins, Barritt (capt), Lewington; Malins, Spencer; Barrington, Tolofua, Judge, Day, Skelton, Rhodes, Burger, Wray.
Replacements: Woolstencroft, Thompson-Stringer, Sasagi, Kpoku, Clark, Earl, Whiteley, Gallagher.
Referee: Karl Dickson.